I never cease to be amazed at how God orchestrated the spread of the gospel after Jesus’ death. It started with 11 men who had been commissioned by Jesus himself, and it spread like wildfire. Events that should have interfered with the gospel’s spread created an environment where the gospel would be carried even further across the ancient world. This, if nothing else, is proof of God’s desire for everyone to hear the good news.
As we’ve discussed in the last few weeks, all Christians have a mandate to share their faith. Today, we will talk about the call to full-time missions, the importance of responding to it, as well as what you can do if you haven’t received this call.
The call to missions
To those who haven’t received the call to international missions, it can look a bit like extreme sports—scary and dangerous. Yet for those who have the calling, it only seems natural to leave home with a few belongings and settle in the far reaches of the world. Why wouldn’t we want to tell the world about Jesus?
What we’re seeing is the difference in callings. God has set aside some Christians for the express purpose of leaving their comfort zone and sharing the gospel in foreign lands. And those who receive this calling also are equipped to fulfill it.
This is an important distinction. The call to missions comes from the Holy Spirit. It’s a whispering in the heart there’s something we should be doing, even if we don’t know exactly what it is. As God prepares us to receive this calling, he often gives us a sense of restlessness, a feeling there’s more to the Christian walk. It’s a hunger that takes us back to God, searching for his will in our lives.
God’s call is unique for everyone. Jesus told Peter he was to be a fisher of men. Peter’s calling was related to his livelihood, but his end purpose was changed. Paul’s calling was a burning-bush experience: blinding light and a voice in the darkness. Afterwards, the Lord described Paul’s calling to Ananias: “This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:15-16). His calling was to preach to the Gentiles—and to suffer for Jesus.
Most of us are not called to suffer. But each of our callings is different, even among international missionaries. Some are called to preach, teach and plant churches. Others are called to continue doing what they do here—practice medicine or dentistry or farming, for instance—sharing God’s love and their faith as they go about their business. Some are called to reached people groups, where the church already exists. Others are called to unreached people groups, where no one has heard about Jesus.
But they all share one thing: an urgency to do the work God has given them.
Responding to the call
It’s time for a little honesty now. All too often, we as Christians do good things not because God told us to, but because everyone else is doing those things.
A mission trip is a perfect example. We might be ashamed we don’t care about the mission as much as everyone else appears to, so we pretend we’re enthusiastic. We participate mostly because it looks bad not to participate. Or perhaps the trip looks like fun, and we’ve always wanted to see that part of the world.
Because missions is a work of God, it must be led and empowered by God. If we “call ourselves” to missions, we’ll be doing the work in our own strength. Don’t get me wrong. God will use everything for his own good. Even when we work in our own strength, we can accomplish God-sized results. But we’ll miss blessings, and we’ll wear ourselves out. When we operate within a calling, we are energized by even the most difficult of situations because we aren’t doing the work. God is. When missions are done within a calling, the Holy Spirit does the work, and his results feel effortless.
If you feel you are being called to missions, make sure the calling is from God. Pray and ask for confirmation. But take the calling seriously. Share it with your church and contact the International Mission Board. Let God lead you, and be careful never to get out in front of God.
What if you’re not called?
There’s no shame in not being called to international missions. All of us are called to share our faith, so we can continue to share where God has put us. But we can also support mission work around the world.
Pray. All too often we take lightly the power of prayer. Our sustained prayers for missionaries strengthen the Spirit’s work in their lives, offering protection and provision we could never imagine. You also might ask God if he wants you to participate in missions yourself. Make sure you don’t put off answering a call to missions if you feel God leading you that way.
Give. It takes money to send and keep missionaries in the field. If we haven’t been called to missions, or if we aren’t able to go ourselves, we can still participate through our financial gifts. Give through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, which funds half of the International Mission Board’s total income, or look online at www.imb.org for other ways to give.
Continue to share. Remember, in a way, we are all missionaries. Our mission field may only be in the backyard, but it’s our job to plant seeds of faith, water them and harvest new believers for Christ. Support those whose calling is different from yours, but walk boldly in your own calling.
• Have you ever felt an urgency to do something for God?
• Have you ever felt a calling to missions of any kind? What was it?
• How does it make you feel to think about foreign missions?
• How do you feel God wants you to support missions?